Gallery to feature Gibbons' works in May; professor retiring after 40 years

The annual exhibit of paintings and drawings by artist and Penn State New Kensington professor of visual arts Charles "Bud" Gibbons is set to run until May 31 in the Art Gallery on the Upper Burrell campus. The artist’s 40-year run as a professor ends a month later with his retirement.

The theme of this year's show is "Unfinished Paintings," and the display features 75 oil and acrylic pieces. Many have been a part of Gibbons’ previous exhibits. "Paintings" is the traditional name of the show.

"Each year I get to see my paintings 'fresh' in the gallery," Gibbons said. "It helps to know how to move the paintings forward. These paintings have not made it into exhibits before or have been reworked to the point that they should be shown again.”

The idea of unfinished paintings comes from Gibbons’ en plein air (in the open air) style. He prefers working outdoors, but he is limited by time and weather, so a painting can get started but not always completed. The exhibit comprises a number of these outdoor pieces called “studies,” which are small paintings done on location. A study becomes the foundation for a larger painting that can be done in the studio.

“Some of these studies work as finished paintings, too,” Gibbons said. “Also there are a couple large paintings that I continue to work on, so as of now they are still unfinished.”

One of the larger unfinished paintings is “Morning Glories,” the featured painting three years ago of his “Found Paintings” show. It previously hung in the Carnegie Museum, and Gibbons reworked it for the 2011 exhibit. He has reworked it once more for the current show, and all three paintings are distinctly different.

Featuring five cows (two as reflections in the pond), the painting was a part of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh's 100th annual exhibition. In the original, Gibbon's used a lot of gray in the landscape, producing a darker, more somber painting that serves as a metaphor for the ambiance of a century ago. The cows, who are grazing on an actual farm that is located between Apollo, Pa., and Indiana, Pa., were not the subject of the piece. The first rework made the painting a little lighter, and the recent rework make it lighter again.

"When I got the cows back from the Carnegie, I decided to change the mood of the painting," Gibbons said. "I cut it down in size by 2 inches, added color, even the whites and blacks turned to color, and made the cows the focus. For the current version, I wanted to make the painting quieter based on a foggy morning study I did in the backyard. It is still ‘Morning Glories’ but it’s a foggy morning now.”

“Somebody ought to take the brushes away from me,” he said with a laugh.

Another study in the exhibit served as the original for Gibbons’ painting “Winter,” an 8-feet by 10-feet acrylic on canvas. The original was painted in an impressionist style while the reworked painting adds color and detail to the snow, trees and sky.

“Winter” is one of four paintings that constitute the exhibit “Four Seasons” at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. The paintings are seasonal landscapes of the annual weather patterns of Westmoreland County in western Pennsylvania. Commissioned by the museum in 1990, the paintings hang from the ceiling of the museum’s McKenna Gallery and rotate every three months to show its corresponding season. Gibbons started with “Summer” in 1992 and finished with “Spring” in 1993. The paintings are currently in storage due to the museum’s two-year renovation project. The revolving exhibit will return in 2015. Last year, the paintings were on loan, and Gibbons exhibited all four seasons together in the New Kensington gallery.

The Westmoreland also shared Gibbons’ art with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 2012, a print of the “Winter” painting graced the cover the newspaper’s Christmas Day issue. A winter scene painting traditionally highlights the cover of the Dec. 25 edition. Gibbons’ was the first living artist to earn the coveted spot.

The exhibit is free to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

This is the last show by Gibbons as professor of visual arts. The artist and educator retires June 30, but he will continue his annual show as professor emeritus of visual arts. Emeritus is a title bestowed on distinguished faculty for long service to the campus.

Gibbons joined the campus faculty in 1974 and was promoted to full professor in 2008. Full professor is the highest rank attained by senior faculty members. He holds a master of fine arts degree from Penn State and a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Maryland Institute of Art. The Lower Burrell resident teaches introductory courses on visual arts, drawing and painting.

Art work by his students is exhibited annually during April in the art gallery. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is the director of the art gallery. Each month, a local artist or a group of artists show their works on campus. In the past year, the gallery featured the works of Eloise Piper, Bill Debernardi, Chuck Carr and the East Suburban Artists League.

An accomplished artist, Gibbons has painted the American landscape from the Atlantic to the Pacific and around the world in places as remote and exotic as Tibet, Peru, Alaska and the mountains of China. His paintings are represented in many collections including the Westmoreland Museum in Greensburg, the Southern Alleghenies Museum in Loretto and the National Museum in Cusco, Peru.

For photos of the exhibit, visit

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Last Updated May 08, 2014